Black Friday is an import from the United States. It started out as a way of filling the Thanksgiving weekend. But, thanks to the internet, Black Friday is now over here. Add to that the number of major brands and stores that are US-based, sourced or financed, and it is not hard to see why its arrival over here has been so rapid and so complete.
But is it worth it?
Traditionally, in the UK, our sales start on Boxing Day and run into the New Year. That has experienced a degree of creep over the past few years, with some sales now starting on Christmas Eve. That seems a little counterproductive to me, because that means that the disorganised and/or lazy who leave everything to the last second, could catch a bargain they really don’t deserve. And also means that the retailer misses out on the potentially lucrative last minute rush.
But we are still in November. So why discount today? As Chris Choi points out (here), retailers could be shooting themselves in the foot by lowering price expectations before the sales “proper” kick in.
Online, websites are crashing at a rate of knots. It took me over an hour to get two pairs of jeans into a basket and pay for them, although the Paypal pages were not in the least bit taxed (as they are designed to cope with Black Friday in USA-style numbers, not UK ones). Some sites have keeled over entirely with error pages already drafted to cover them while they scramble to catch up.
Is it safe to go to the store in person? Well, so far today, there have been three arrests in the Manchester area alone for assault, and even by lunchtime, there were rather chilling videos circulating of fights, conflicts and apparent utter desperation. One woman was injured by a falling television. The Police have been called to supermarkets and stores all over the country. At Asda in Wembley, people were knocked to the ground in the hysterical stampede.
And remember, most of this started at midnight, not this morning. It’s already been going on for several hours.
The BBC quotes Jamie Hook who was buying food at Tesco in Stretford on Thursday night when he said “the screaming started”.
“I looked at the massive crowd to see people climbing over shelves and displays, staff running for cover, fights breaking out, stock flying through air, people breaking through carrying televisions – and this was before the sale had even started,” he said. The lady on the till I was at was in tears, terrified of it all, but she was under orders to close her till to go and help crowd control.”
This is not normal behaviour. Stampedes, threats and assaults for the sake of a slightly cheaper television? What have we become?
And bear in mind that, as Chris Choi points out, there may be better bargains to be had in the New Year sales anyway!
Edit: The UK now has its first entry on the Black Friday Death Count website which lists all injuries and deaths caused by Black Friday hysteria. Should we be proud of this? Probably not. How can any television, no matter how cheap, be worth killing or hurting someone else for?